Low staffing level claims denied

HOSPITAL managers this week denied that staffing levels in Hinchingbrooke s pathology department were critically low. The allegation came from hospital trade unions through former Unison branch secretary, Mike Gough, who organises the Save Hinchingbrooke

HOSPITAL managers this week denied that staffing levels in Hinchingbrooke's pathology department were critically low.

The allegation came from hospital trade unions through former Unison branch secretary, Mike Gough, who organises the Save Hinchingbrooke Hospital campaign.

Mr Gough claims that, if one more member of staff were to leave - and many biomedical staff are looking for new jobs - the department would be in danger of closing.

Managers say this is scare-mongering. Only two out of nearly 30 biomedical staff in the pathology department are temporary. "If it comes to a choice between a safe service and recruiting a locum, we shall spend the money on a locum," a spokesman said.


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"All departments now have budgets, and decisions like this are part of managing within them."

Mr Gough blames interim chief executive Jane Herbert, who left a month ago after master-minding the rescue plan. He fears the service could be privatised, in whole or in part, at greater cost.

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"There are now six vacancies for biomedical scientists, and this represents 20 per cent of the workforce needed to run the two sites of Hinchingbrooke and Papworth Hospitals," he claimed. "There is also a need to cover out of hours sessions for emergencies and the routine GPs' work and there is also a need to increase staffing levels to be compliant with the Working Time regulations. This will have dire consequences if it is run by the private sector."

Hinchingbrooke acknowledges that the future of pathology services - in which it already collaborates with Papworth, Peterborough and Addenbrooke's - is still undecided.

It is looking at five possible options, at least one of which includes private sector involvement, to cope with demand that is increasing by more than 10 per cent a year and with the fact that working hours are now limited by the EU's Working Time Directive.

A decision is unlikely before January next year.

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